The significance of Holly Township Code Enforcer Roger Welsh’s email isn’t that it was written two years after PHH Mortgage deeded the township the 10-acre parcel in question, but rather that it was written five months before the special meeting was held on Feb.23, 2012.
During the special meeting, Supervisor Jesse Lambert was asked what the board’s intentions were for possible uses for the land. Supervisor Lambert listed off several options including that it could be used to house a storage facility, a police station, a fire station, a township hall or perhaps even be made into a park. When a member of the audience asked whether a canoe livery was ever considered, Mr. Lambert acknowledged that yes, it had been an option, but that the township hadn’t taken any steps in that direction.
Mr. Welsh’s email dated Sept. 15, 2011 tells a different story. “If our dream should come true of this property becoming a park-river access point…” it says. It’s also important to note that the 10-acres the township alleges that it owns, does not have river access. The property along the river is still owned outright by the Smiths.
In her editorial, Ms. Winchester said she is uncertain as to why the bank gifted the property to the township, and that it still remains “pure speculation.”
In another Welsh email I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act dated Sept. 1, 2009, Mr. Welsh tells an agent of PHH Mortgage that Treasurer Mark Freeman had indicated an interest in the 1031 S. Holly property on behalf of the township. In that same email, Mr. Welsh goes on to tell PHH Mortgage that the property has a serious blight situation worthy of court action, that the buildings are substandard, and that both of these issues would have to be addressed. Mr. Welsh then tells PHH Mortgage that as owners of the property, they will be responsible for all costs associated with clean up, demolition and court fines. In subsequent email, Welsh suggests that PHH Mortgage should pay fines of up to $300 per day until they comply. Mr. Welsh also stated that the property could not be split unless substantial infrastructure improvements were made and approved by the township. On Dec. 16, 2009, PHH Mortgage relented, giving the property to the township for nothing – a piece of land they originally paid nearly $140,000 to own.
This then begs the question. What would PHH Mortgage be left with if they would have cleaned up the blight, demolished the buildings, paid fines, and were unable to split their 10-acres from the Smith’s 10-acres? They would have the exact same thing the township currently has – a 10-acre parcel that cannot be sold because it is not legally split. A purchaser cannot obtain a title policy, and the township is not able to convey a clean title. So far, the township has spent almost $30,000 of taxpayer money on this “free” piece of property.
In the closing remarks of her editorial, Ms. Winchester says, “The entire matter surrounding the Smiths’ litigation has never gone without great thought, consideration and compassion.” If township officials believe that evicting a family with two small children in the dead of winter, and from a property where the ownership is still in question, all while there is no urgency in the matter since the case is still lodged in the Michigan Court of Appeals – if this is their idea of compassion, then I believe as a society, we are in deep trouble.
Oakland County Commissioner